Silvio Valletta pulls out of Caruana Galizia murder case after court ruling

Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta is suspending himself from the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation

Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta (right) flanking Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar at the Crime Conference following Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder
Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta (right) flanking Commissioner Lawrence Cutajar at the Crime Conference following Daphne Caruana Galizia’s murder

Deputy Police Commissioner Silvio Valletta is suspending himself from the Daphne Caruana Galizia murder investigation after a constitutional court ordered his removal from the case.

Sources told MaltaToday that although the Attorney General will be appealing the judgment, Valletta chose to pull out of the investigation out of his own volition without waiting for the appeal to be concluded.

Valletta, the husband of Gozo Minister Justyne Caruana, was not available for comment.

In his ruling delivered on Tuesday, Judge Silvio Meli ordered that Valletta desist from taking part in the investigation and also ordered that the deputy police commissioner’s involvement in the investigation be re-examined by his replacement.

The ruling is unprecedented and legal sources believe it may also derail the ongoing proceedings against three men accused of the journalist’s murder. In a cryptic post on Facebook on Wednesday, the lead inspector in the Caruana Galizia murder case, Keith Arnaud, could not hide his disappointment at the outcome, calling it "a hit below the belt".

Police Inspector Keith Arnaud
Police Inspector Keith Arnaud

The court case was filed last year by the Caruana Galizia family that accused Valletta of a conflict of interest because of his marriage to a cabinet minister and role as a board member of the Financial Intelligence Analysis Unit (FIAU).

The family said that given the extensive reporting by Daphne Caruana Galizia on alleged money laundering by government members, Valletta’s marriage to a cabinet minister gave rise to a conflict of interest.

The judge accepted the family’s arguments, insisting it was natural that doubts are raised when the person in question (Valletta) is a politically exposed person, a husband of a minister and an FIAU board member.

The ruling was welcomed by the Caruana Galizia family but sources said the judgment came as a shock for the police force after building a solid case against three men, who stand accused of murdering the journalist.

Daphne Caruana Galizia was killed in a car bomb on 16 October last year, shortly after leaving her family home in Bidnija.

Two months later, a massive operation by the police and army in Marsa and other locations led to the arrest of 10 men.

Three of these – George Degiorgio, his brother Alfred Degiorgio and Vince Muscat – were eventually charged with planning and carrying out the execution. The compilation of evidence is ongoing and the prosecution is being led by police inspectors Keith Arnaud and Kurt Zahra, who report to Valletta.

The motive for the murder remains unknown and it is widely held that the three men may have been commissioned by an unknown individual or individuals to carry out the crime.

Caruana Galizia’s son, Matthew, welcomed the judgment and tweeted that his mother had been investigating Valletta’s “suspicious unwillingness to charge government officials”.

Former Opposition leader, Simon Busuttil, called the judgment “a step towards justice”.

Lawyers Jason Azzopardi, Eve Borg Costanzi and Therese Commodini Cachia appeared for the Caruana Galizia family, while lawyer Victoria Buttigieg represented the office of the Attorney General in the proceedings.

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